by: Stefan Halter [ ]
Introduction and History
With this kit Dragon Models brings us back the M4A1 (76) W Sherman kit (No. 7304) of 2007 and combines it with a newly tooled Jeep, to my knowledge only the second in 1/72 scale (the other being the Academy one; Fujimi and Matchbox having released one each several decades ago in 1/76 scale).
There is of course no need to go into the history of the Jeep or for that matter the Sherman in general. However, I would like to lose a few words on this particular version of the M4A1. It was the first 76mm armed version of the Sherman to see combat and was a sought for item once American armored divisions met the Panther tank in Normandy. Though the 76mm gun with standard ammo still was not good enough to fight the Panther on equal terms (with the later HVAP ammo making it a bit more equal), the 76mm gun nevertheless gave a crew a better chance of survival than the 75mm. 102 of these vehicles arrived in Normandy in July 1944 in time for Operation Cobra and were divided evenly among the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions.
These tanks were standard late M4A1 hulls with the large hatches. The turret was the early style T23 with the two large hatches and the .50 cal. MG mounted to the loader’s hatch. The 76mm gun itself had no muzzle brake or any threading to fit one. The suspension was of course of the VVSS type, with straight return roller.
So let’s have a look in the box, shall we? Standard of molding is of course typically DML with crisp and minuscule details, no pin or sink marks and quite a bit of slide molding used. Some sprue attachment points are quite large for the part they hold so you should be very careful when getting these off the sprue.
The Jeep comes on one gray plastic sprue, a clear sprue and the Jeep’s body in one nicely slide molded part with hood and engine grille included.
Starting with the body, this has some very nice details, down to the rivets on the hood and the engine grille is a perfect match for the Jeep. The body sides are on the thick side but once the Jeep is loaded it probably won’t be that noticeable. The axe comes molded to the body and so do the four handles on the crew compartment. These are, unfortunately, not molded open, so are more like a piece of flat card molded into the body. I recommend replacement with thin wire.
The clear sprue holds the two separate headlights and the windscreen in one piece (not separate windows that go into a frame). The wipers are included in this part. Some very fine work will need to be done to mask these and I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better to include these in a PE fret or leave them off entirely for the modeller to scratch if he so desires. But that is really up to each and everyone’s own taste.
The main sprue holds the chassis with the leaf springs molded onto that with slide molds. Detail here is fantastic. Drive mechanism and axles are one part, another is the exhaust with the protective shield. Detail again is superb here. The engine compartment is left empty except for the lower part of it on the chassis as well as a separate radiator.
Moving up top, the seats are separate items but unfortunately there are no cushions on the driver’s and co-driver’s seats. Not noticeable if you add figures (none are included however) but very noticeable if you don’t. Some scratch work is needed here. The driver’s panel has some nice details and is included in one part with the back edge of the hood. Other details to add are the steering wheel, gear lever, shovel, rear view mirror, convoy lamp, spare wheel and jerry can. The latter is unfortunately a let-down as it does not include any handles!
Markings are provided for two vehicles: The first is from the 401st Glider Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division (France 1944). The 401st GIR acted as the 327th GIR’s 3rd Battalion during the Normandy campaign and was later integrated into that regiment. This, and the fact that the 101st AB never served in France later, would of course place the Jeep into the thick of the June 1944 Normandy fighting, nowhere close to Operation Cobra.
The second option is unidentified, U.S. Army, Western Front 1944, which could be anything from Normandy to the Bulge (or even Italy?). As the bumper markings are very small and not a standard size it will be hard to get the proper unit marks to match the Sherman. So unfortunately there are no markings that will clearly fit to the Sherman’s markings, which in my view kind of defeats the purpose of releasing them in one package.
Nevertheless, a worthy new jeep with lots of great detail and with some TLC the flaws can easily be addressed. I give it an overall of 85%
The M4A1(76)W Sherman VVSS
As the Sherman has been on the market separately for over 4 years, I will limit my comments somewhat.
Starting with the suspension, this is the well-known standard M4 sprue from DML with the correct return rollers for this version. The bogies have some nice casting marks. Both types of drive sprockets are provided, fancy or smooth, with the back on both being of the fancy type (which will not really be noticeable once fitted). The instructions are correct in indicating the use of the smooth type. Tracks are from DS and the instructions tell you how to adapt their length in case they are too long or too short: pull apart or cut out!
The lower hull is again well known from other Sherman kits and has the drive sprocket mountings molded in a slightly upward angle when it should be horizontal. Again, not really noticeable once finished.
The upper hull has a very fine cast texture to it, which is correct for this scale as American castings were generally very smooth. The engine armor cover on the other hand has a very rough texture which is better smoothed out to make it more realistic. Hatches can be molded open or closed and the periscopes are separate parts. There are even some periscope guards but molding restraints are evident on these parts which are almost too small to replicate in plastic. Unfortunately, as with all DML’s braille Shermans, the tools (except for the shovel) are molded on. One wonders why they could not provide them separately, especially in view of the spectacular and fine PE parts. The molding however is very fine and should provide a satisfying finish. The rear stowage rack and the light brush guards are provided in PE or plastic to satisfy both tastes. A nice metal cable rounds the hull off, I recommend annealing before attachment.
Moving on to the turret, this is another standard sprue and provides two 76mm barrels for the spares box and of course the correct barrel for this version – just make sure you use the right one! The barrels have open muzzles thanks to the use of slide molds. There are some very fine casting symbols and numbers on the turret and the hatches are separate items. A nice .50 cal. machine gun rounds the package off.
Markings are provided for three vehicles, one of 3rd Armored Division and two of 2nd Armored Division, all with black over OD and large white stars with circles for air identification on turret roof and engine deck. Elowee has been seen before in 1/35th scale and Duke is unknown to me (both 2nd Armored Divison).
The third is the well known “IN THE MOOD” commanded by the U.S. Army’s own tank ace Lafayette Pool. I recommend Steven Zaloga’s “Modelling the US Army M4 (76mm) Sherman Medium Tank” from Osprey Modelling which has a great build of a 1/35th scale In The Mood. The tank originally had large yellow tactical numbers on the side of the turret and these were painted over with OD (also in the black bands), a detail you might want to look out for when building this version.
Overall a great kit with nothing to gripe except maybe the molded on tools. I’ll give it 95%.
Basically a re-issue of the very good early M4A1(76)W with a newly tooled standard Jeep thrown in for good measure. The Jeep has a few flaws but it’s still an attractive pair and a good kit to get.